Salvation Can Be Misleading When it Comes to Mental Health
This is an essay from my series about religious deconstruction. In religious deconstructionism, we dismantle harmful beliefs and behaviors that are rooted in person experiences with religion.
I was taught that due to Eve eating the apple in the garden, all humans were separated from God and born into sin. God is “holy” and cannot be in the presence of anything unholy. As humans - we were therefor unholy, sinful, and unworthy.
Simply by being born into a legacy. This concept is known as original sin.
Some Christians do not believe in original sin. They believe separation from God occurs when an individual sins of their own accord, such as when a child lies or a teen has a sexual thought.
Whether through original sin or through our own sinning, the same conclusions are reached: humans are unholy, sinful, and in need of salvation.
While these beliefs have their place within Christianity and those who follow Christ, they can be damaging to mental health. If someone is raised with these beliefs, it can lead to deep-seated beliefs that they are unworthy, never good enough, and constantly in the wrong (sinning).
These beliefs are also some of the most difficult for my therapy clients to deconstruct. It takes immense reprocessing and working to untangle these beliefs.
Christianity teaches that the only “salvation” from our unworthiness and sinful nature is Christ. It believes that due to Christ being pure and dying for all of humanity’s sins, it was enough to wash our sins away. It teaches that if we believe in Christ and declare him as our Lord and savior, his atonement reunites us with God, both in this life and in the next. It means we can “walk with God and his holy spirit” in this life, and that we are spared from hell when we die.
Salvation teaches that an individual must rely on something outside of themselves.
It also leads people to believe that if they just put their faith in Christ (salvation), they will be freed from whatever affliction, “sin,” or behavior with which they are concerned.
However, a person will frequently need more support, skills, strategies, and self-understanding to stop a problematic behavior. When they later make another misstep, they blame themselves and think it’s because they don’t have enough faith in Christ.
For example, if someone asks Christ for forgiveness for getting angry with their children, that simple act does not provide them with an understanding of the triggers of their anger. It does not teach them how to address the root causes. It does not teach how to appropriately express anger (for contrary to what is taught in the church, anger is not a sin).
They think if they just had enough faith in Christ, they could conquer whatever problem they’re facing. This is where salvation can be misleading.
Salvation and the concept of sin can also increase self-judgment. If a single sin can cause them to be separated from God and cast into hell, then a person may feel immense self-judgment, self-castigation, and self-hatred when they make a misstep.
It leads to a perpetual feeling of not being good enough.
In therapy, we see mistakes as a normal and necessary part of life. We can acknowledge them and move forward. We can learn from them and make adjustments where needed. Regardless of whether salvation is involved, this process leads to a healthier and healthier life.